February is National Children’s Dental Health Month and I wanted to wrap up the month with guest blog post from Dr. Erin Phillips with Indianapolis Pediatric Dentistry (http://www.indykidsdentist.com). Preventive dental care is JUST as important as well child visits to the pediatrician.
As always, kids thrive on structure and routine…don’t forget to check out the American Academy of Pediatrics “Brush, Book, Bed” program!
HEALTHY START FOR YOUR CHILD’S SMILE
Contributed by Dr. Erin Phillips
February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, an event established by the American Dental Association to bring awareness to the prevention of dental problems in our children. According to the Surgeon General’s report in 2000, children miss 51 million hours of school each year for dental related issues. Many of these problems could be prevented with routine care and by establishing healthy habits in the home.
Establishing good oral health habits during infancy is important for a lifetime of healthy smiles! Research has shown that those children who start seeing a dentist early in their lives will have fewer cavities during their lifetime. Baby teeth are important for normal development in chewing, speaking and appearance, as well as holding space for the future permanent teeth. Dental problems related to decay can cause pain, interfere with sleep and ability to focus during school, and prevent a child from eating well.
Research has shown that those children who start seeing a dentist early in their lives will have fewer cavities during their lifetime.
Your child will begin getting their baby teeth around 6 months of age. A child’s first visit to the dentist should occur within six months of the eruption of the first tooth, but no later than their first birthday. Think of this visit as a well-baby check-up for your child’s teeth! The pediatric dentist will do a thorough exam of your child’s mouth and provide valuable guidance on how to maintain your baby’s bright, healthy smile. Pediatric dentists focus on prevention of dental problems like cavities. Visiting the pediatric dentist every six months can reinforce good oral care habits and help prevent tooth decay.
RELATED: How do I get my preschooler to let me brush her teeth? (HealthyChildren.org)
A child’s first visit to the dentist should occur within six months of the eruption of the first tooth, but no later than their first birthday.
TIPS FOR KEEPING TEETH HEALTHY
- As your baby’s first teeth begin to come in it is important to start cleaning them with a damp cloth after feedings and before sleeping. Begin the important habit of brushing every morning and night once those first teeth have come in! Brushing and flossing removes the bacteria that cause cavities. Choose an appropriate sized toothbrush and replace it once the bristles begin to look frayed and worn. Look for a brush with a thick, or chunky, handle which is easier for little hands to hold. Parents should assist their child with brushing until 8 years old (or later, if fine motor skill development is delayed). Your child’s pediatric dentist will guide you on the appropriate time to start using fluoridated toothpaste, but this usually will start around 2 years of age.
- Avoid putting your child to bed with a bottle or cup, as this puts their teeth at risk for decay.
- Offer your child water and white milk to drink and discourage drinking sugary beverages like juices, sodas and sports drinks. Choose tap water to drink because it contains fluoride which will help in remineralization of the tooth’s enamel, strengthening the tooth against decay.
- Select foods and snacks that have a high nutritional value and are low in sugar. Cheese is one of the healthiest snacks for children’s teeth as it provides calcium and helps to fight cavities! Any foods that are sugary with a sticky consistency, like fruit snacks, will increase the risk for tooth decay and should be avoided.
Starting out with healthy habits early will make for a lifetime of healthier teeth, and focusing on good dental habits everyday provides your child with lessons to carry into adulthood. Always remember your child’s pediatric dentist is a valuable resource about dental care, good habits and healthy food choices – and is always happy to answer questions!
RELATED: Why Regular Dental Visits are Important (HealthyChildren.org)
If you need to find your child a pediatric dentist, you can call the American Dental Association at 1.844.490.GKAS (4527). While they cannot guarantee free dental care they can help connect you with practices that also may offer reduced services based on your ability to pay. For more information, click here.
RELATED: Fluoride Varnish: What Parents Need to Know (HealthyChildren.org)
Twitter hashtag: #StandforSmiles